I turned to my son who wears more food than he eats, has a constant case of sticky hands and shovels food, and said, “She made me realize I am doing a poor job with my table manners. Daddy and your brother aren’t here so I think you’re the man for the job. I’m making you the Manners Manager in our house.” We were sitting in a workshop at a home-school convention on manners and the speaker had just finished. My manners really weren’t the issue, it’s his manners that are embarrassing. I was so tired of telling him to take smaller bites, slow it down, wash your hands, hold the door open for the ladies – oh the list is huge! He has held his title for three days now and the power of the Manners Manager has impressed me more than I ever thought possible.
The second we came home from the convention I told my husband of the newly appointed position, and it was explained right in front of the new Manners Manager. “If someone during dinner is not minding their table manners the Manners Manager will take them away from the table politely and discretely, just like the speaker instructed, so the proper behavior can be reinforced. He won’t embarrass the person at the table because she said that would ruin the dining experience for everyone.”
The sweet lady giving the workshop on manners was telling us moms how to instill manners in our children but I have to come clean. I wasn’t doing my job. I was hinting manners at my children. I was making suggestions to my children. I was directly addressing the bad manners to my children. I was even barking correction. What I was doing wasn’t working. We have thrown away more shirts than I can count because they are riddled with stains. Two of us don’t even hold someone’s hand to pray over our meal anymore because I don’t want to get up to wash my hands after I peel it off of his.
In our house if it’s not working we change it up, shake up the rhythm and hope the new method helps. We have changed this and shaken it so many times that I wouldn’t be surprised it we have a manners martini hiding somewhere. Still the manners of our children are frankly childish!
Well I’m tickled to pieces to tell you this is working way better than I ever thought. Our Manners Manager is eating slowly. He is taking normal, bite size pieces of food on his fork. He is sitting up straight at the table and he is even instructing us politely, “I remember she said to put your silverware together like this on your plate when you’re finished, or turn your fork upside down on the plate.”
The lady giving our workshop told us a story of when she was a teenager. She and her brothers were going to the mall with their mom. After they had made their way through a few departments of the store one of them turned around and realized their mom wasn’t with them. They waited for her to catch up thinking she found and pretty dress or something enticing. After ten minutes passed they began to worry so they retraced their steps back to the door of the store where they found their mother. She was standing outside in the heat leaning up against the brick wall. When they went outside their mother said, “I wasn’t sure what to do. No one opened the door for me.”
This story, combined with his new promotion, hit my son as a challenge.
He has taken his new job as the Manners Manager and is running full steam ahead, thinking like a true gentleman. The best part of it all is I’m not saying a thing to remind him. As I type this he is getting paid. We discussed his pay and he chose to alternate. Once a month he wants a date with Dad where they hit a movie at the cheap theater or go take in a bike ride and the other weeks he’ll choose the dessert on Sunday night. For those nights my plan is to serve dinner on the fine china. So right this second he is at a matinee with my husband – BONUS quiet mom time!
We decided that every few days we will look up a new manner and make sure we are all following the Manners Manager’s guidelines. This keeps the ideas fresh. Click here for a good resource that is easy to read for your Manners Manager.
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In addition to our new amazing dining experiences I am more conscious of our Manners Manager trying to be a man. I am making the effort to slow down and sit still in the car until he comes to open my door and he is immediately coming to me to carry my heavy bags. My guess is we have a good ten to fifteen years before he leaves us to get married but at this point I can be pleased to know he will treat his wife and daughters like a gentleman should. Watching him filled with pride and confidence when he takes charge as a man helping a woman is giving my husband a thrill.
Thank goodness because he was so unexcited about this new situation that at our first dinner the Manners Manager asked my husband what he did with his dirty napkin. My husband, in rebellion, had wadded up his napkin and threw it behind him on the kitchen floor just to be funny! “Well you said nothing should touch the table once it’s touched by human hands. What was I supposed to do with it?”
I’m betting this too will eventually not work but for now it is smooth sailing and my sticky, food-on-his-face, messy room boy has grown up with a dose of responsibility and this mama’s feeling good.
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